The Cato Institute's Amazing Hypocrisy as It Battles the Kochtopus
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Public relations experts understand one thing about a messy legal battle: the side that triumphs in public perception from the outset can leverage the momentum.
Right now, that momentum is clearly with the Cato Institute in its court fight to prevent the oil billionaires, Charles and David Koch, from gaining majority control of the libertarian think tank through a shareholder lawsuit. Yes, I said “shareholder.” This nonprofit, subsidized by taxpayers, is currently 50 percent owned by the Koch brothers and if they win in court, they will become majority owners as a result of a tricked up contract and the death of a 25 percent owner last October.
The Cato Institute, in a week’s time, has transformed its image from a pro deregulation, pro Social Security privatization, anti Federal school lunch, anti minimum wage, anti collective bargaining think tank taking tens of millions from corporate foundation coffers to that of a cherished endangered species – a freedom-seeking beached whale struggling for survival in a tightening net cast by a villainous predator.
Cato’s crisis management team has set up a web page titled “Save Cato.” Its survival plea is for a public outcry against Kochs’ attempted takeover to prevent Cato from becoming an auxiliary of the Republican party or an “intellectual ammo-shop for Americans for Prosperity” – the Koch money funnel to the Tea Party.
The strategy has worked miracles. Cato’s craven acts of the past have melted away faster than snow cones in July and media fans are springing up daily to herald its independent voice, its venerable platform for libertarian ideals. This is the specter of mass hypnosis that derives from the enemy of my enemy is my friend. If the Kochtopus is out to strangle Cato, by golly, we need to save it. But what, exactly, are we out to save?
Officials on the Cato side — President Ed Crane and Chairman Robert Levy — are not telling us everything we need to know – by a long shot. For starters, why was this so-called venerable libertarian institution stacked with Republican Party donors instead of Libertarian Party donors long before the Kochs started their takeover effort?
According to the Cato Institute web site, there were 16 members on its Board of Directors and a Director Emeritus prior to the Koch coup on March 1 when the Koch brothers installed four new Koch operatives to replace four Cato loyalists. Of the 16 members, according to Federal Election Commission records, only three have given money to the Libertarian National Committee since 1997. Those three are William A. Dunn, Lewis E. Randall, and Jeffrey Yass. All together, the funds totaled $42,250 over 15 years.
That small sum is dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to Republican candidates and Republican Committees by the other Cato Board members from 1997 to the present. Again, what are we saving Cato from?
Ethelmae Humphreys, a long serving Cato Board member, gave over $30,000 to state Republican committees from 1997 to 2010 and $50,000 in 2010 to the New Prosperity Foundation. New Prosperity is a PAC that placed attack ads in the Midwest against Democrats and supported the election of Republicans in the 2010 midterms.
Humphreys is the daughter of the founder of TAMKO Building Products, where she currently serves as Chairman. The company is one of the largest independent manufacturers in the U.S. and has sprawling business interests throughout the Midwest.
John Malone, another long tenured Cato Board member is Chairman of Liberty Media Corporation. Liberty Media owns interests in a broad range of media, including SiriusXM, Live Nation, and minority investments in Time Warner and Viacom. In just the past three years, Malone has given over $39,000 to national Republican committees.